Posts Tagged ‘Future of the Social Web’

The Future of the Social Web: In Five Eras


Expect the Groundswell to continue, in which people connect to each other –rather than institutions. Consumer adoption of social networks is increasing a rapid pace,  brands are adopting even during a recession,  so expect the space to rapidly innovate to match this trend.  Clients can access this report, but to summarize what we found, in the executive summary we state:

Today’s social experience is disjointed because consumers have separate identities in each social network they visit. A simple set of technologies that enable a portable identity will soon empower consumers to bring their identities with them — transforming marketing, eCommerce, CRM, and advertising. IDs are just the beginning of this transformation, in which the Web will evolve step by step from separate social sites into a shared social experience. Consumers will rely on their peers as they make online decisions, whether or not brands choose to participate. Socially connected consumers will strengthen communities and shift power away from brands and CRM systems; eventually this will result in empowered communities defining the next generation of products.

We found that technologies trigger changes in consumer adoption, and brands will follow, resulting in five distinct waves, they consist of:

The Five Eras of the Social Web: 

1) Era of Social Relationships: People connect to others and share
2) Era of Social Functionality: Social networks become like operating system
3) Era of Social Colonization: Every experience can now be social
4) Era of Social Context: Personalized and accurate content
5) Era of Social Commerce: Communities define future products and services

Update: CRM Magazine has more about the five eras, focus in on the graphic.

The Five Eras Of The Social Web   

Timing of the Five Overlapping Eras:
It’s important to note that these eras aren’t sequential, but instead are overlapping. We’ve already entered and have seen maturity for the era of social relationships, have entered social functionality but haven’t seen true utility, and are starting to see threads of social colonization with early technologies like Facebook connect. Soon these federated identities will empower people to enter the era of social context with personalized and social content. The following diagram demonstrates how we should expect to see the eras play out in the future –with social commerce the furthest out.

Timing Of The Five Overlapping Eras   

Interviews with 24 of the top Social Companies:
Research isn’t done in a vacuum, that’s why we conducted qualitative research to find out what we should come to expect. We came to these conclusions based on interviews with executives, product managers, and strategists at the following 24 companies: Appirio, Cisco Eos, Dell, Facebook, Federated Media Publishing, Flock, Gigya, Google (Open Social/stack team), Graphing Social Patterns (Dave McClure), IBM (SOA Team), Intel (social media marketing team), KickApps, LinkedIn, Meebo, Microsoft (Live team), MySpace, OpenID Foundation (Chris Messina), Plaxo, Pluck, Razorfish, ReadWriteWeb,, Six Apart, and Twitter.

How Brands Should Prepare
What’s interesting isn’t this vision for the future, but what it holds in store for brands, as a result, companies should prepare by:

  • Don’t Hesitate: These changes are coming at a rapid pace, and we’re in three of these eras by end of year. Brands should prepare by factoring in these eras into their near term plans. Don’t be left behind and let competitors connect with your community before you do.
  • Prepare For Transparency:  People will be able to surf the web with their friends, as a result you must have a plan.  Prepare for every webpage and product to be reviewed by your customers and seen by prospects –even if you choose not to participate.  
  • Connect with Advocates: Focus on customer advocates, they will sway over prospects, and could defend against detractors. Their opinion is trusted more than yours, and when the power shifts to community, and they start to define what products should be, they become more important than ever.
  • Evolve your Enterprise Systems: Your enterprise systems will need to connect to the social web. Social networks and their partners are quickly becoming a source of customer information and lead generation beyond your CRM system.  CMS systems will need to inherit social features –pressure your vendors to offer this, or find a community platform.
  • Shatter your Corporate Website: In the most radical future, content will come to consumers –rather than them chasing it– prepare to fragment your corporate website and let it distribute to the social web. Let the most important information go and spread to communities where they exist; fish where the fish are.

If you translate this blog post, I’ll add your link here and credit you.

  • Dutch: Marketing Facts Team, Bas van de Haterd
  • Spanish: Estategia Digital by Pablo Melchor
  • Danish: Social Media Marketing by Peter Ulstrup Hansen
  • Danish: dSeneste by Søren Storm Hansen
  • Polish: Marketing Technologies by Dawid Pacha
  • Italian: Digital Ingrediants by Stefano Maggi
  • Russian: Shchepotin by Denis Shchepotin
  • Czech: Vlad Hrouda
  • French: We are Social by Sandrine Plasseraud
  • Korean: by Jamie Park
  • Hebrew: Blink by Israel Blechman
  • Indonesian: Wib’s Web World, by Wibisono Sastrodiwiryo
  • German: The Social Media Soapbox, by Stephen Rothman
  • Portuguese: Live from Sao Paulo, Brazil, by Dax
  • Swedish: JMW, by Brit Stakston
  • Norwegian: Cruena by Harald, Creuna
  • Arabic: Technoemedia, by Mohamed Hassan
  • Chinese: Seaberry, by Sylvia
  • Japanese: MinoriG Translation, by Minori Goto
  • Romanian: Blog de Comert Electronic by Adriana Iordan
  • Persian: Lameei,
  • Want to translate it into your language? I’ll be happy to add you, read these suggestions.

  • This project took a team effort, and I’d like to thank Josh Bernoff a guiding force in my career, Emily Bowen who kept the project going, Cynthia Pflaum for the quantitative data, Megan Chromik in our editing team for the polish, and Jon Symons in our PR team for the media outreach.

    This is also cross posted on the Forrester blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals. Thanks to Matt Savarino for catching a small typo.

    Future: How The Social Contract Between People and Brands Will Evolve


    In the coming weeks, I’ll be publishing the much anticipated Future of the Social Web Report, based on research conducted with the leading social networking companies and organizations in the industry. This post is just a riff off one of the sub-bullets and is intended for those that are already well versed in the social web.

    In one research interview, I spent time with the insightful Chris Messina who is an active member and on the board of the Open ID foundation. After speaking to him, he brought forth insight on how portable IDs will empower people (he uses the term citizen) to traverse the web and reduce their need to constantly register to sites, and login. He’s *finally* posted on the topic after my prodding, I wanted to wait on publishing this so he gets the proper attribution.

    [Technology will shift the power from brands to people as they are able to control their own identity. As a result, the Social Contract between people and brands will evolve]

    In a previous post, I highlighted how this simple technology will shift the power from marketers to customers, and as a result registrations pages will go extinct. How will this happen? Because people will be able to control their identity, and can choose to expose as much or as little information as they want to brands and websites, they are now in control.

    The Social Contract: Today vs Tomorrow
    In order to gain control back, marketers will need to reinvent the digital social contract as we know it. Here’s how it’s going to go down:

    Today, the social contract puts brands in control
    Prospects who want more information about a product, access to a white paper, attend an event, or get product support will often have to register on a website. As a result, they give information, and thus power to brands for them to bug them, and bug them more efficiently. While customers can choose to unsubscribe or choose not to be contacted, they’ve given the ‘required fields’ over to the brand…forever locked up in CRM systems.

    Tomorrow, the social contract puts customers in charge.
    As customers can elect how much information they want to share, they are now in charge. Prospects (not customers yet) can share very minimal amounts of information, giving the brand limited ability to bug them. As the prospect becomes more interested, sarah will choose to give more information to the brand in exchange for additional value.

    Use Case: How the Social Contract Between Customer and Brand May Work
    To illustrate my point, here’s how this new model could evolve with Sarah, our fictional customer, at the top is the start of her journey (someone not even remotely interested) to her becoming a vocal advocate(satisfied and willing to tell others):

    Sarah’s not interested in the brand. As a result, she doesn’t have to give any information as she visits a brand site, she’s just browsing and she’ll choose not to expose any information.

    Sarah sees a product that attracts her eye, and requires more information, but doesn’t want to expose her personal information or register to the site. She will allow the brand to send her information perhaps in her Facebook inbox, but she won’t have to give any information about her at all.

    Sarah’ starting to compare this product to others, she’s in the consideration phase, as trust is instilled, she will choose to allow her demographic information exposed, and in return receives information related to what she is likely to want, reducing her need to navigate a large website. While her demographic information may be disclosed to the brand, they may never know her actual name or email address.

    Sarah is getting ready to commit to purchase, as a result, the brand offers her greater incentives such as additional services or discounts if she shares her psychographic information to the brand. As a result, the brand will be able to offer her additional related products, or engage in an actual dialog.

    Sarah has purchased the product, and the brand offers her a deeper discount to her friends, if she chooses to pass along information to her trusted peers that she’s purchased the product, or her review. This word of mouth is what customers trust the most, and brands will attempt to tap into this by offering group discounts if several buy.

    Sarah, who is thoroughly satisfied with the product, chooses to be public about her purchase. Although you can’t expect every customer to self-express, she will knowingly stand behind the products and brands that represent her, and become a willing endorser of the brand. This isn’t that far fetched, we currently see this with many luxury or passion products, but now the brand will encourage this, by rewarding her with recognition or other forms of social currency.

    Now some of you may say this contract already exists in some forms, and I’ll have to agree. However we haven’t seen formal systems and technology emerge pan-industry that can support this. It’s even possible people can experience this all within social networks without ever formally going to a corporate website.

    Although fictional, this use case could very well come to life, and I’m sure some vendors will leave some comments on how they’re already experimenting with this. As this simple technology enables customers to control their own identities, brand will have to reshape how they’ll get customers attention and ability to register.

    This topic of the social contract is only one small node in the upcoming report, we’re excited to share it with you in the coming weeks.